Norbit (2007) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG_13 for crude and sexual humor, some nudity and language
Running Time: 102 min.
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Thandie Newton, Terry Crews, Cuba Gooding Jr., Eddie Griffin, Clifton Powell, Lester 'Rasta' Speight, Katt Williams, Marlon Wayans
Director: Brian Robbins
Screenplay: Jay Scherick, David Ronn, Charlie Murphy, Eddie Murphy
Review published February 14, 2007
The tagline for Norbit reads, "Have you ever made a really big mistake?", the "big" referring to the size of henpecked Norbit's domineering wife, Rasputia. If you count viewing Norbit as a really big mistake, then my answer is, "Hell yes, I have!"
Eddie Murphy (The Haunted Mansion, Daddy Cay Care) stars as Norbit, who as a baby was abandoned in front of an orphanage/restaurant run by an Asian man known as Mr. Wong (also played by Murphy). It's not an easy life, but he finds early happiness with his first puppy love, Kate (as an adult, played by Thandie Newton, The Pursuit of Happyness), who is adopted shortly after they become an item, leaving him alone again. Sometime later, he catches the eye of a heavyset girl named Rasputia (also played by Murphy, as an adult), who scares him enough so that he can't say no, but he becomes content that he has a family he can call his own, namely, Rasputia and her ne'er-do-well brothers. As adults, Norbit and Rasputia eventually marry, and despite her unattractiveness, Norbit finds her cheating on him, which makes him despondent. However, things pick right up when Kate comes back to town to buy the orphanage, and Norbit sees her as his ticket to happiness -- except that she is engaged to be married.
I really don't see what is the selling point of a movie that has Eddie Murphy playing multiple roles if none of the roles he plays is remotely funny. In Norbit, Murphy plays a dork, a fat woman, and an elderly Asian man, but in each case, it probably would have been better cast with people with similar have comedic talent who naturally fit in those roles. Murphy is a funny comedian, and can be an appealing actor when cast in roles that cater to his personality. However, even if Eddie were to be limited to just one of the three roles in the film, he would prove more of a distraction than an attraction.
Seeing a fat woman who isn't a fat woman because she's played by a man isn't funny just on its own. If you've seen just one advertisement for Norbit, whatever your initial reaction to seeing the large woman played by Eddie is surely gone within three seconds, Also not funny are any of the fat jokes that run rampant throughout. The jokes are too obvious to be clever. I'm sure we all have joked as kids when seeing a really large person jump in the pool how all the water would splash out and leave the pool empty. That was pretty funny notion when I was about 5 or 6 years old, although certainly not original -- every kid that's ever been to a pool has thought of that one. Sure enough, Rasputia falls into a pool of water and soon you have an empty pool. Why didn't Eddie get all these childish fat jokes back out of his system when he did Nutty Professor and Nutty Professor 2? Or better yet, when he was in elementary school?
Once you get past the fat and obnoxious behavior, which is DOA from inception, the rest of the film fails just as miserably to inspire laughs. You can spot early on that Kate's would-be husband is up to no good, and the stupid subplot about the three brothers starting up a "titty bar" to replace the orphanage isn't worthy of a single chuckle. The romance between Norbit and Kate could have been sweet if Norbit weren't such a hammy, one-dimensional character. Kate, as played by Newton, is written only to be thin, attractive, and nice, in contrast to Rasputia's nastiness. Without the contrast, she has no discernable personality of her own.
Norbit was conceived of by Eddie Murphy himself, along with his brother, Charlie, and the two also share screenwriting credits with Jay Scherick and David Ronn, whose comedic achievements include Serving Sara, Guess Who, and a not-very-funny Murphy vehicle, I Spy -- not exactly films that tickle the funny bone to any large measure. Further evidence of the film's dearth of comedic expertise, it is directed by Brian Robbins, who is responsible for some dreadful entries like The Shaggy Dog, Good Burger and Ready to Rumble -- easily ranking among the worst films of their respective years of release. Looks like he's now locked in for 2007's list. The biggest question of all: How in the world are these people allowed to continue to assault audiences with terrible work like this when they clearly have shown they have neither the knowledge nor talent to make a winning film?
After co-star Cuba Gooding Jr. won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Jerry Maguire, he practically squandered away his career making crap like Chill Factor, Pearl Harbor, Snow Dogs, and Boat Trip. Nowadays, his appearance in films is fast becoming guarantee of a lesser effort in terms of quality (example: Norbit). At the time of this writing, Eddie Murphy is up for the same award for his work in Dreamgirls. If Eddie has decided to follow in Cuba's footsteps, it looks like he's a little premature. Win the award first, Eddie, then piss the career away.
©2007 Vince Leo